Category Archives: Videos

Lenten Reflection – Day 26

God loves you.

This Lent, I have been thoroughly enjoying the meditations of the brothers at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This particular quotation comes from the video from their March 12 meditation about acceptance. In the video, Br. Curtis Almquist challenges you to “write this on a piece of paper: ‘God loves me,’ and keep that piece of paper with you.” It’s something I’d never tried. Have you? Take a look at the full video below, and be sure and check out their full Lenten meditation series here.

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The Story of the Ethiopian Eunuch

One of our lessons today at church was the story of the Ethiopian eunuch from the Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40:

An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
   and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
   so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
   Who can describe his generation?
   For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

I had heard this story once or twice before, but never really thought much about it until recently. This story is one that you really have to understand within its cultural and historical context to be able to understand just how amazing of a story it is.

In ancient times, certain men were chosen to live lives of obedience to a king or queen (as a guard, a food taster, treasurer, etc.). To ensure obedience, and to prevent the man from marrying anyone else and having a family of his own (and also to ensure the man didn’t “sleep around” with anyone from the king’s court), these men were often castrated. The term “eunuch” literally means “bedroom guard,” from the ancient Greek word eunoukhos, defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as “a man who has been castrated, especially (in the past) one employed to guard the women’s living areas at an oriental court.”

So, eunuchs were castrated men. They were men without their genitals. They were men who had no testosterone flowing through their bodies. They were men who were deemed “ritually unclean” by the Jewish priests, and therefore excluded from temple worship. They were men whose lives were intended to be lived in servitude to another person. They could not have a family of their own, nor would any women want to be with them.

Today, we cannot relate directly with the story of what a eunuch must have gone through. It is no longer socially acceptable in our culture to castrate a man to ensure his obedience and servitude to another person. That is unthinkable. However, the struggle for acceptance that the eunuch must have gone through can be likened to the struggle of gays and lesbians, and those “sexual others” in our society whom people shun and distrust. The message from Acts couldn’t be clearer: Jesus calls us to accept and welcome everyone into the fold of God’s love.

So our castrated official has come to worship in Jerusalem, but he has undoubtedly been turned away; his racial and sexual identities have put him outside the worshipping community. In this light, do you feel the full pang of the question he asks as the chariot passes some water? “I have just been rejected and humiliated in Jerusalem, but you have told me of a man who, like me, has no ph ysical descendants, a scarred and wounded man who like me has been humiliated and rejected. Is there a place for me in [God’s] kingdom, even though I have an unchangeable condition that was condemned forever by the sacred Jewish scriptures?

Philip doesn’t speak. Nor does he leave for Jerusalem to consult with the apostles there, nor does he convene a five-year committee to study the subject. Instead, he simply acts. The audacity of his action is seldom appreciated, I fear. As the horses are reined in and the chariot comes to a stop in a cloud of dust, he leads the eunuch down from the chario and into thwater, and there he baptizes him. The sign of the kingdom of God that began in Jesus—a place at the table for outcasts and outsiders—continues in the era of the Acts of the Apostles. The poor are accepted, and the sick. Samaritans are accepted, and Gentiles, including Africans, and here, even the “sexually other,” those considered “defective” who will never have a place in traditional religion or in the traditional culture based on the “traditional family.” The old “other-excluding” sanctions—against the uncircumcised, against the “defective”—even though they were claimed to be in effect “throughout their generations”—have been buried in baptism, left behind as part of the old order that is passing away. As Philip and the Ethiopian disciple climb the stream bank, they represent a new humanity emerging from the water, dripping wet and full of joy, marked by a new and radical reconciliation in the kingdom of God.

–Excerpt from A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren, p. 181.

The mystery of the depth of God’s love cannot be fathomed. God loves all of creation…those of us who make wrong choices, and those of us born a different way. Those of us whom society shuns, and those of us who abuse and misuse their wealth and resources in greedy and injurious ways. I pray that all of creation rejoices in the knowledge of that love, regardless of what anyone (including other Christians) has said contrary to that!

In closing, I invite you to watch a sermon reflecting on this story by the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope of Washington National Cathedral. Click here to watch the sermon, or click here to watch the entire worship service.

Thanks be to God!

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How are we supposed to live with people with whom we fundamentally disagree?

In this poignant sermon by the Rev. Dr. Renita Weems, renowned preacher in the African Methodist church and writer about women’s spiruality, we are posed with the question: “How are we supposed to live with people with whom we fundamentally disagree?” Dr. Weems reflects on the lessons of the day from the book of Genesis, where the brothers of Joseph conspire to kill him; from the Gospel of St. Luke, in which Jesus tells us to love your enemies, and do good to those who curse you; and on the preachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Click here to enjoy this fantastic sermon by Dr. Renita Weems, who preaches at Washington National Cathedral on the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

How do you love your enemies? We disarm them with love. … How different the church would be, how different our world would be, if we would realize that Jesus does not call us to the Table to celebrate a bastion of sameness; be that sameness in regard to race, ethnicity, economics, social class, ideology, politics, or polity; these are the things of our human invention. But the Bible understands that we are not homogeneous. We are different. And yet we are invited to the Table. To work out our differences? To agree? To overlook? Jesus gives us no answer. He just says … “Do this in remembrance of me.” … Just keep coming to the Table.

Or, click here if you wish to watch the service in its entirety.

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Welcome Christ In

“What are you seeking?” In this reflection, the Reverend Canon Jan Naylor Cope of Washington National Cathedral reminisced about her honeymoon many years ago, where she and her husband went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While there, she had an epiphany about the meaning of the holy ground she was walking upon. Her experience was deepened by the words of an Anglican priest, who helped her to realize that Jesus wasn’t about a specific place or time, but that Christ’s spirit transcends all…and he can be found everywhere, if our hearts might only welcome Christ in.

Click here to take a few moments and enjoy her heartfelt reflection on her visit to Bethlehem, many years ago.

If you wish to enjoy the entire Carols by Candlelight service, click here.

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See Amid the Winter’s Snow

St. Thomas Choir – See Amid the Winter Snow from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

See amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who throned in height sublime
Sits amid the cherubim. Chorus

Say, ye holy shepherds, say
What your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep? Chorus

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing peace on earth
Told us of the Saviour’s birth”. Chorus

Sacred infant, all divine,
What a tender love is thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this. Chorus

Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By Thy Face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility! Chorus

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Wake, O Wake!

The text of this hymn is based on Jesus’s parable of the ten bridesmaids from Matthew 25:1-13, and was originally written in German as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

Here’s is a video of Trinity College Choir Cambridge performing the first two stanzas:

And here’s a version sung by the Sheffield Cathedral Choir:

Wake, O wake! with tidings thrilling
The watchmen all the air are filling,
Arise, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight strikes! no more delaying,
“The hour has come!” we hear them saying,
Where are ye all, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes in sight,
Raise high your torches bright!
The wedding song swells loud and strong:
Go forth and join the festal throng!

Zion hears the watchmen shouting,
Her heart leaps up with joy undoubting,
She stands and waits with eager eyes;
See her Friend from Heaven descending,
Adorned with truth and grace unending!
Her light burns clear, her star doth rise.
Now come, Thou precious Crown,
Lord Jesu, God’s own Son!
Let us prepare to follow there,
Where in Thy supper we may share.

Every soul in Thee rejoices,
From men and from angelic voices
Be glory given to Thee alone!
Now the gates of pearl receive us,
Thy presence never more shall leave us,
We stand with angels round Thy throne.
Earth cannot give below
The bliss Thou dost bestow.
Grant us to raise to length of days,
The triumph-chorus of Thy praise.

Words: Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), 1597;
trans. Francis Crawford Burkitt (1864-1935), 1906
Music: Wachet auf (Philipp Nicolai, 1556-1609, harm. Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750)

–From the album Complete New English Hymnal: Volume 13, sung by the Sheffield Cathedral Choir.

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It Gets Better: Dan and Terry

No good thing will God withhold from those who walk with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11

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What is “the way?”

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This one statement said by Jesus to his apostle Thomas in John 14 is a statement used by some Christians to substantiate the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to salvation. That is, these Christians believe that in order to go to heaven to live with God for eternity once we die, that we must first profess faith in Jesus Christ. But is this what Jesus really meant?

Below are a few items that discuss this. The first is the sermon from May 22, 2011 from Washington National Cathedral. The second is an essay written by Brian McLaren that discusses John 14 in more depth. The third is a YouTube clip that tries to illustrate (in a humerous way) just how silly the exclusivity doctrine is.

“Who knows this love and is living in this love, and who doesn’t?” – Dean Samuel Lloyd, from his sermon. Click here to watch the May 22, 2011 sermon from Washington National Cathedral.

Read another great discussion of John 14:6 by Brian McLaren here: McLaren – John 14.6-3.

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Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Thanks to my friend Jason for sharing this beautiful hymn with me. It is words like those in this hymn that remind us that God speaks to us in a myriad of ways, likely not in ways that we would expect God to speak to us. Let us tune our hearts to the sound of sheer silence, through which God may be speaking to us. The lyrics of this hymn are inspired by 1 Kings 19:11-12.

(The italicized lyrics below are not sung in this version)

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

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Once In Royal David’s City

Today, on the ninth day of Christmas, we sang this beautiful hymn at church. The second verse really touched me, and made me think just how amazing the love of God is that has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor, the scorned, the lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all his wondrous childhood,
he would honor and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden
in whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
mild, obedient, good as he.

For he is our childhood’s pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
all in white shall wait around.

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